Item description for Long Term Human-Computer Interaction: An Exploratory Perspective by Richard C. Thomas...
This book is about longitudinal research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Since the early 1980s much has been understood about the problems of novices learning new systems as well as the performance of expert users. However there is still a lot to discover about the transition from novice to expert and its implications for the design of systems. For instance:
- How long does it take to become expert?
- Does early experience of a system have any effect on subsequent flexibility?
- How can flexibility and long term learning be promoted?
- Are there strong constraints that should be taken into account in the design of adaptive systems?
Longitudinal research in HCI has been rare for many reasons. There is always pressure to obtain results - the current climate of short-termism does nothing to promote a longer perspective. The field of HCI itself is changing fast, and there are often virgin technologies to explore which can be more exciting and potentially profitable than research aimed at basic understanding. There is also a possibly mistaken view that longitudinal studies are always inherently expensive.
The present volume grew out of a project at Sydney University. The very first ideas were discussed in 1989. In 1991 data logging started of a mainly undergraduate population using a Unix-based editor, sam (Pike87). Due to good fortune the system continued unchanged into a second year and it became clear data collection had very low marginal costs. The result has been astounding - in excess of 4000 individuals have been monitored over a seven year period. The approach has been strongly data-driven and empirical.
There were three broad aims in writing this book:
1. To present methodologies for longitudinal research in HCI in such a way that people can develop their own approaches according to their needs.
2. To give an account of the Sydney case study.
3. To discuss the implications of that work for HCI in general, including but not restricted to:
- The dynamic control of adaptive interfaces and help systems
- User modelling
- Usability assessment
- Design of interfaces for long term flexibility
- Education and training, especially of Computer Science undergraduates, but also of users who need longer term flexibility (And who doesn't?).
Although the work is interdisciplinary, the main focus is clearly HCI. Some concepts from cognitive psychology, linguistics and other disciplines are reviewed and adopted as required.
The book is aimed at research workers in HCI. This means people who research and design user interfaces, human-factors specialists, computer scientists and information systems specialists, psychologists and, importantly, cognitive scientists. Many will be academics, postgraduates and researchers. Moreover some chapters should also be accessible to senior undergraduates as supplementary reading.
At a secondary level the book may appeal to people with specialist interests in exploration, education, skill acquisition and the Type-Token Ratio in linguistics.
The first Chapter discusses why longitudinal research can benefit HCI and sets the scene for the book. In Chapter 2 appropriate concepts in skill acquisition, novice users and experienced performance are introduced. Methodologies of some prior longitudinal studies in HCI are discussed in Chapter 3, followed by a detailed account of the systems developed for the Sydney study.
In Chapter 4 the potential in the data is demonstrated across two populations of users -- first year undergraduates and second years -- as they encounter the editor for the very first time. Some benefits of prior experience or instruction can be seen. There is then an illustration of how the teaching improved for the subsequent two years, and the effect this had on the early laboratory classes. In this chapter cross-sectional and cohort analysis of data are thus represented.
The fortunes of some of these cohorts are tracked in the following three chapters, which present what I call Process Dynamics.
In Chapter 5 the question of vocabulary is revisited - normalisation gives new insights into what is constant and what changes with time. Strong frequency constraints are shown in this data, and the Type-Token Ratio (TTR) is adopted as a measure of vocabulary deployment. Important constraints for adaptive systems emerge from this work. In Chapter 6 an operational definition of exploration is presented. Exploration continues at a low level for years. There follows an extension of the definition of exploration to embrace serendipity - the accidental discovery of useful things. In Chapter 7 crossovers between different methods are discussed. This is followed by the Zone of Exploration Model which is an attempt to depict how long term dynamics operate at a command level.
Chapter 8 draws together the material in the book on a thematic basis. There is a critical assessment of the methodology in the Sydney study, a discussion of process dynamics, a summary of the constraints on adaptivity, suggestions for better interface design, and finally a cautionary tale for educators - the possible creation of a technological underclass.
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